M.A. Theses: Sarah Oas, 2013

 

Revisiting Bosumpra:  Examining 10,000 years of Plant Use at the Bosumpra rockshelter, Ghana

In recent years there has been a growing interest in understanding the nature of prehistoric occupations and subsistence practices in the tropical forest regions of sub-Sahelian West Africa. These regions have long been considered as promising areas for investigating the antiquity and origins of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) use and cultivation, a resource of immense economic importance today. This thesis examines Later Stone Age (LSA) subsistence practices and explores the interrelationships between LSA populations and plant resources in the tropical forests of Ghana during  the Holocene. Using archaeobotanical evidence, I provide a long-term view of plant use at the Bosumpra rockshelter in southern Ghana over the course of the 10,000 years occupation, and I present the first detailed archaeobotanical analysis for pre-Kintampo LSA populations in Ghana.

This research documents the use and perhaps early management relationships with the oleaginous , incense tree (Canarium schweinfurthii L.) and oil palm, which are the most abundant food remains for all phases of occupation at Bosumpra. The collection and processing of these taxa, especially incense tree, were important activities performed at the shelter, and likely influenced the timing of the use of the shelter. The results of this study show the gradual displacement  of incense tree by  oil palm as the dominant tree-fruit resource at Bosumpra, and demonstrate the longstanding importance of both tree-fruit resources at the shelter well past the advent of food-production in Ghana. Remains of pearl millet and cowpea at Bosumpra document the appearance of plant domesticates in these forested habitats.

Although this analysis of plant materials from Bosumpra provides data from only a single site, the findings resonate with more widespread work on LSA subsistence practices, especially in regard to the importance of incense tree and oil palm to forest inhabitants. It also provides archaeobotanical evidence supporting previous models of the introduction and spread of West African plant domesticates. Altogether, archaeobotanical data from Bosumpra provide insights into changing practices of plant use and management during the LSA, and a subtle indication of what may be the earliest evidence of interaction and exchange between hunter-gatherers and food producers in this forest region.

Keywords: archaeobotany, Late Stone Age, Ghana, oil palm, incense tree, arboriculture, pearl millet, cowpea, subsistence, domestication.